Archive: March, 2003

Heroin, babies and bad attitudes

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 31, 2003, 10:49 AM | comments: 0

A relative of mine is apparently a heroin addict.

About three years or so, he nearly died of an overdose, and I just learned that he repeated that instance twice after. He was supposed to get married this summer, but she broke it off when she discovered he wasn't clean. He has a month to get his shit together and win her back, and in the mean time they're seperated. At this point, we're all hoping this is just a setback, not a terminal failure. He's getting help this week.

On Steph's side of the family, one of her relatives has been pregnant since September. She's a high school drop out, no job, no car. A real bona fide loser, and soon, a mother.

This weekend, my volleyball kids failed to meet my expectations, in part because of their inability to listen to us, and partly because they're worried about all of the things they shouldn't be worrying about (namely what other players are doing, what the lineups are, etc.). Some of them had really shitty attitudes.

Odd as it may seem, these three events, which all have me irritated, angry or sad, are all related. They're all examples of people who have a strong effect on you by doing things you have no control over. You're drawn into their failures even if you have absolutely nothing to do with them. The worst part is that you feel bad for even recognizing that you have nothing to do with them, that you should feel bad just for the sake of being sympathetic.

What's that all about? Why the hell should you be miserable because people close to you are? It absolutely sucks.

I resolve to rise above it and keep my own life in order, but it's not easy. Fortunately at least, I've got someone to wake up next to every morning that makes things a little easier.

Technology and war coverage

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 28, 2003, 3:57 PM | comments: 0

As the war goes on, I'm fascinated by the news coverage. With the Internet, we can see how it's being covered from pretty much every country, and the differences are sobering.

Naturally, as objective as the US press tries to be, they rarely get to what's really going on because they're so excited to have people traveling with the troops. I don't think they're intentionally neglecting the other side of the front, but they're so caught up in their "embedded" coverage that we're only getting half of the story.

If you search around international sources, the story isn't about the loss of a couple dozen coalition troops, it's about hundreds of hurt civilians, massive property destruction and starving kids. They also ask the US folks in the briefings the same thing every day, "Have you found the weapons of mass-destruction?" Sadly the answer is still no, and that's something to be concerned about since we've covered most of the country already.

I wish Americans would actively seek out the entire story. I support our people and want it over quick, but I'm still not sold on the cause.

I still worry about that more than anything. The human price of this conflict is already too high on both sides of the conflict. If we don't get that proof, was it really worth it? Will the Iraqi people be better off in what could potentially result in a three-way civil war? So many questions.

I'm tired of seeing crying wives and children state-side already. I'm tired of seeing Iraqi women and children begging US troops for food. I'm even more disturbed by the promise that the whole thing is going to get more ugly in the coming days.

I hope it's over soon... for everyone's sake.

War in the mind of a 16-year old

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 24, 2003, 2:04 PM | comments: 0

I was chatting with one of my volleyball kids today about the war, to see what she was thinking right now. She's very for the war, and like most Americans, wants it over quickly.

What's so interesting is the reasons behind her support. Here's what she said:

im sick of being scared of Saddam cause i have been scared of him since i was little during the gulf war cause my uncle was there. and i don want to be scared of him or have Saddam kill anymore of his people anymore. i dont want Saddam around or any of his sons ruling when i grow up either.

I thought that was fair enough, and makes sense. So I asked her what it was about Saddam that worried her.

im scared there will more terrorist attacks that could come from him and the gas weapons. if he can kill his people in a snap... y cant he kill me?

Again... rational response. I asked if she saw a difference between the likes of Al Qaeda and Saddam's dictatorship.

i think Al qaeda is much worse on the terrorist thing but i still think that Saddam has big ties to them.

When I asked why she thought there were ties, she couldn't answer. There's the fundamental problem that I have with public opinion.

The Bush administration has made its justification for war on loosely tied accusations and emotional issues. Sadly, I think that the bulk of Americans have bought into it. In my own inventory of issues, I can determine that the following are true.

  • Saddam is a very bad man.
  • Saddam would own the Middle East if he could.
  • Saddam would build nuclear weapons if he could.

OK, got that. So far, we could probably say the same thing about Fidel Castro in Cuba. We haven't invaded Cuba.

The following are loose ends, or things we've not been able to prove.

  • Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. This was the key justification for war, and as of last week, there was no concrete proof yet.
  • Saddam has ties to terrorists. That has to be the single biggest stretch we've seen. Come on... that guy is all about control and power. Terrorists are far too independent for the likes of that. These statements were made because if you're pissed off about 9/11 (and really, who isn't?), you've got your case.
  • Saddam violates the human rights of his own people. Yeah, no question that's true, but why is he so different? What about Rwanda, or the former Yugoslavia? It's not like we jumped into those areas to help out. It has been estimated that Rwanda suffered genocide on the order of a million people.

At this point, there's no turning back. I accept that. I hope we don't lose anymore people, and I hope that civilians are spared, and left with a country to call home. I just want it over, and I hope that the justification is found in the outcome, since it wasn't found before hand.

As an aside, it looks like "Salam Pax" from Baghdad is back online, and he's living in a very scary place. Check out his blog.

Good times in times of war

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 24, 2003, 10:16 AM | comments: 0

As much as I try to not let it bother me too much, the war is really getting me down. Our own people are dying, and if you watch any of the foreign press, you see that civilians are dying and being injured as well, stuck in inadequate medical facilities. It's not a pretty thing.

Things are disturbing at home on two fronts. The first is in the realm of public opinion. One of our local TV stations aired an e-mail message from some guy who absolutely didn't get it. He just went off on people not supporting the war, confusing the fact that those opposing it aren't anti-troops. How fucking stupid does the guy think people are? At this point, all anybody wants, for or against, is for our people to achieve quick resolution and get home.

The second problem is that, with casualties mounting in our own military and Iraqi civilians, the pressure is on more than ever to find the "weapons of mass destruction" that we said were there. This entire invasion is based entirely on the idea that Saddam has these weapons. If he doesn't, somebody in Washington has a lot of explaining to do.

So while I pretend to not care too much about what's going on, I try to keep things "normal" around me. We had a small party with just some of our closer friends on Friday night. It was nice to have the close friends there together, especially since I haven't seen some of them in awhile. We had beers and a little DDR and talked about "good old times."

Sunday, Steph and I had lunch at Red Robin and did a little shopping. I picked up one of those new Gameboy Advance SP's, because I'm a gadget geek. I needed something that I could use to kill time at volleyball tournaments and on airplanes, so it was a fairly worthy impulse buy.

We also watched the Oscars. It's weird how, in some strange way, beautiful movie stars make me feel better, I guess in that there's something nice and "pretty" in the world, outside of my wife and family. Catherine Zeta-Jones is still beautiful, even though she's about to explode with a baby. Julianne Moore is still striking over 40. Salma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez still keep that fire for the Latin ladies. Renee Zellweger is cute, but God I wish she's put some pounds on. I dunno, that was about all I got out of the Oscars. It's only about how pretty the actresses can be.

And speaking of being pretty, Stephanie is at home right now playing with hair color. Everybody loves the red hair, now she's touching up and dealing with the roots. It's an involved process with many steps, but the payoff is worth it. I think she gets to be more and more cool every year. That's my wife!

So there you have it... strange thoughts in strange times. It's so hard to get perspective. I wonder what's going through the heads of my volleybal kids right now.

Live from Baghdad

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 20, 2003, 7:39 PM | comments: 0

I won't really comment... I just think you should see this yourself. It's the blog of an Iraqi in Baghdad. He's not stupid, and sees Saddam as a bad guy, but his perspective on our handling of Saddam is fascinating.

I'll cut and paste this part, because I want it to live even if the blog is taken down by the author:

No one inside Iraq is for war (note I said war not a change of regime), no human being in his right mind will ask you to give him the beating of his life, unless you are a member of fight club that is, and if you do hear Iraqi (in Iraq, not expat) saying “come on bomb us” it is the exasperation and 10 years of sanctions and hardship talking. There is no person inside Iraq (and this is a bold, blinking and underlined inside) who will be jumping up and down asking for the bombs to drop. We are not suicidal you know, not all of us in any case.
I think that the coming war is not justified (and it is very near now, we hear the war drums loud and clear if you don’t then take those earplugs off!). The excuses for it have been stretched to their limits they will almost snap. A decision has been made sometime ago that “regime change” in Baghdad is needed and excuses for the forceful change have to be made. I do think war could have been avoided, not by running back and forth the last two months, that’s silly. But the whole issue of Iraq should have been dealt with differently since the first day after GW I.
The entities that call themselves “the international community” should have assumed their responsibilities a long time ago, should have thought about what the sanctions they have imposed really meant, should have looked at reports about weapons and human rights abuses a long time before having them thrown in their faces as excuses for war five minutes before midnight.
What is bringing on this rant is the question that has been bugging for days now: how could “support democracy in Iraq” become to mean “bomb the hell out of Iraq”? why did it end up that democracy won’t happen unless we go thru war? Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful.
The situation in Iraq could have been solved in other ways than what the world will be going thru the next couple of weeks. It can’t have been that impossible. Look at the northern parts of Iraq, that is a model that has worked quite well, why wasn’t anybody interested in doing that in the south. Just like the US/UK UN created a protected area there why couldn’t the model be tried in the south. It would have cut off the regimes arms and legs. And once the people see what they have been deprived off they will not be willing to go back, just ask any Iraqi from the Kurdish areas. Instead the world watched while after the war the Shias were crushed by Saddam’s army in a manner that really didn’t happen before the Gulf War. Does anyone else see the words (Iran/not in the US interest) floating or is it me hallucinating?
And there is the matter of Sanctions. Now that Iraq has been thru a decade of these sanctions I can only hope that their effects are clear enough for them not to be tried upon another nation. Sanctions which allegedly should have kept a potentially dangerous situation in Iraq in check brought a whole nation to its knees instead. And who ultimately benefited from the sanctions? Neither the international community nor the Iraqi people, he who was in power and control still is. These sanctions made the Iraqi people hostages in the hands of this regime, tightened an already tight noose around our necks. A whole nation, a proud and learned nation, was devastated not by the war but by sanctions. Our brightest and most creative minds fled the country not because of oppression alone but because no one inside Iraq could make a living, survive. And can anyone tell me what the sanctions really did about weapons? Get real, there are always willing nations who will help, there are always organizations which will find his money sweet. Oil-for-Food? Smart Sanctions? Get a clue. Who do you think is getting all those contracts to supply the people with “food”? who do you think is heaping money in bank accounts abroad? It is his people, his family and the people who play his game. Abroad and in Iraq, Iraqis and non-Iraqis.
What I mean to say is that things could have been different; I can’t help look at the Northern parts of Iraq with envy and wonder why.
Do support democracy in Iraq. But don’t equate it with war. What will happen is something that could/should have been avoided. Don’t expect me to wear a [I heart bush] t-shirt. Support democracy in Iraq not by bombing us to hell and then trying to build it up again (well that is going to happen any way) not by sending human shields (let’s be real the war is going to happen and Saddam will use you as hostages), but by keeping an eye on what will happen after the war.
To end this rant, a word about Islamic fundis/wahabisim/qaeda and all that.
Do you know when the sight of women veiled from top to bottom became common in cities in Iraq? Do you know when the question of segregation between boys and girls became red hot? When tribal law replaced THE LAW? When Wahabi became part of our vocabulary?
It only happened after the Gulf War. I think it was Cheney or Albright who said they will bomb Iraq back to the stone age, well you did. Iraqis have never accepted religious extremism in their lives. They still don’t. Wahabis in their short dishdasha are still looked upon as sheep who have strayed from the herd. But they are spreading. The combination of poverty/no work/low self esteem and the bitterness of seeing people who rose to riches and power without any real merit but having the right family name or connection shook the whole social fabric. Situations which would have been unacceptable in the past are being tolerated today.
They call it “al hamla al imania – the religious campaign” of course it was supported by the government, pumping them with words like “poor in this life, rich in heaven” kept the people quiet. Or the other side of the coin is getting paid by Wahabi organizations. Come pray and get paid, no joke, dead serious. If the government can’t give you a job run to the nearest mosque and they will pay and support you. This never happened before, it is outrageous. But what are people supposed to do? thir government is denied funds to pay proper wages and what they get is funneled into their pockets. So please stop telling me about the fundis, never knew what they are never would have seen them in my streets.
:: salam 1:37 AM ::

War begins, the world is changed again

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 20, 2003, 8:39 AM | comments: 0

Despite the fact that the majority of the world, and indeed half of our own citizens, thinks that attacking Iraq is a bad idea, the US did it anyway. It's a very sad day in the world.

Sad, because the cowboy in office holds no regard for real truths or the opinion of our worldly neighbors. We never got any proof that Iraq has "weapons of mass-destruction," and aside from a couple of missiles, weapons inspectors found little to worry about. More to the point, they certainly never found anything dangerous to the US.

It's not an issue of terrorism either, as the administration would like us to believe. No connection has been found between Iraq and the people who attacked the US. Making that connection, unsubstantiated as it is, is little more than an emotional ploy.

The administration has also tried to make it an issue of civil rights, but why is Iraq different from countless other states where human rights are ignored? Why is it OK to ignore these issues in one place but not in Iraq? Just a stab in the dark, but I'm going to guess it has something to do with black liquid that comes from underground.

This will all end badly. The burden of proof is on us. When we're done with this, we'll need to prove that Saddam had the weapons we said he did. We'll have to justify the inevitable deaths of Iraqi civilians and our own troops.

Perhaps the worst consequence is that Americans will, more than ever, be disliked by other nations and their people, making us a bigger target for terrorism. It's irresponsible for us to not consider why anyone would kill thousands of people in NYC in the first place, to not wonder how anyone would hate us so much. Our government has become arrogant and no longer needs compelling reasons to force regime change or to topple a government. Is it really our call?

Lots of hard questions to answer. I hope it's over quick, and I hope that Cowboy Bush has one hell of an international public relations team waiting to fix our reputation. With all of the press in the field with our military this time around, we'll likely see a lot more of this.

Another win... more to think about

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 17, 2003, 7:28 PM | comments: 0

My kids won their second tournament last Saturday. It got to be a struggle at times, but they did it.

Having a winning team, consistantly, is weird. I'm not sure what exactly is different this time. I want to think it's partially because of my coaching ability, and the offense I've taught them, but you know, we're trained to be humble and not take credit for things we are entitled to take credit for.

So far we've played in 18 club tournaments, which in theory should be more difficult because they're older, but in practice I don't think that's the case. Our next gig is a genuine 17 open tournament, and two of what I'd consider the toughest clubs will be there. That will be our real test.

So I'm riding high so far... let's see how things go in practice the next few weeks!

The at-home spring vacation

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 12, 2003, 3:00 PM | comments: 0

I had two vacation days that I needed to use this week. Problem was, we couldn't find any really good deals to take a trip, and we'd really like to maintain some forward motion in paying off our credit card so our November Hawaii trip is all cash.

So we decided at the very least that we'd go out to eat a lot and more or less enjoy ourselves. That we did. Here's a recap, the best way I can remember it anyway...

Saturday started with some running around. We brought the camera so we could document the day. We went to a bunch of stores like Best Buy and Home Depot, and eventually Steak-n-Shake, since we had never been there. (Actually, I took a leak in one in Kissimmee, on the way back to the hotel from Medieval Times, where I got drunk.) The food isn't terrible, surprisingly, and it was kind of fun to have milk shakes and greasy food.

Surprisingly enough, we managed to not buy anything at Best Buy. We bought paint for our office. More on that later.

Sunday I had volleyball practice in the morning. Somehow we ended up at a Steak-n-Shake again (different one) for dinner, but had different stuff. I think we went to the mall that day too. Or did we have Chinese at House of Pearl that night? Yikes, I don't even remember, it's such a blur.

On Monday, we started the day with breakfast at Bob "I see old people" Evans. We painted the office. Actually, Steph did about 80% of the work, because my back was killing me from sleeping like a moron and playing volleyball the day before. We moved around the furniture as well so we had an unobstructed view of the window. The dark green on two of the walls is soothing. The pizza and beer we had kicked ass.

Tuesday, we were out and about again, and this time picked up a wireless keyboard and mouse for Steph's computer. Her machine is now more visible in the room, so this reduces clutter. We stopped by John Carroll so Steph could drop off her grades. We ended up having lunch at Chi-Chi's.

We also went to Record Exchange to sell all of the CD's that we had duplicates of (most of which were purchased before we lived together). We racked up about $60 and traded some of that for the original Playstation Dance Dance Revolution, just to be complete in the collection. The best part was this girl working there with the cutest little package. We couldn't stop staring!

Overall, this was not what you might consider an exciting vacation, but for the most part we got to relax and not be at work. That's a pretty good feeling if you ask me. A lot of it is pretty unmemorable, but it doesn't matter, that was kind of the point.

Let me think... this was our restaurant total: Steak-n-Shake twice, Chi-Chi's, Wendy's, Bob Evans, I think it was BW-3 on Friday night, House of Pearl, pizza Monday... that sounds right.

It was nice just to spend quality time with Steph too, and I managed to ignore the need to dive into one of my projects. I feel rested and ready to concentrate more on getting some stuff done...

War without cause gets more silly by the day

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 6, 2003, 3:38 PM | comments: 0

You know, I do generally feel that we, as in the United States, have some moral responsibility to rid the world of any forces that could wipe out massive populations. That is the right thing to do, even though it's an entirely different matter of morality deciding who exactly qualifies as being that evil.

So right now, we hear day in and day out how Saddam is evil and he has weapons of mass destruction. OK, that would probably qualify him, sure, but we've been waiting and waiting for some kind of proof of that. The UN inspectors haven't found anything, yet we keep hearing from the Bush administration that, "Oh yeah, there's stuff there, they're just hiding it." That's like your neighbor telling the police that you've stock piled guns and drugs in your basement and them raiding you just on that. Silly, no?

Obviously I'm not the only one who sees it that way. Half of the American people agree by most polls, and our allies have no interest in getting involved.

Let's say for a minute that we do kill and destroy in Iraq. What happens if we don't find anything? Sure, we took out a "very bad man," but that man had little to no potential of doing anything to us, or even his neighbours. That goes far beyond bad PR for the US, considering the wake of destruction and the inevitable massive loss of civilian life in Iraq.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a country flat out brags that they're ready to create nuclear weapons, and we stand by and do nothing. Uh, do we really want our friends in South Korea to be instantly vaporized? I certainly don't.

The US has a disturbing history of inaction. Pakistan and India, the former Yugoslavia, the Israeli conflict... you get the idea.

Most distrubing here at home is that, for the most part, our citizens are content with just going along with things. If you ask the average person to tell you why Saddam is bad, they don't have a better answer other than, "The president said so."

So meanwhile, we have these gigantic issues to deal with like healthcare, social security, national debt, the economy, shrinking education budgets, etc. Imagine what the billions of dollars going toward this war (that at this point isn't justified) could do right here at home. Kind of depressing.

Adventures in decorating and hair color

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 1, 2003, 11:40 PM | comments: 0

We finally have grown up furniture in our bedroom. I wasn't really excited about it at first because, well, I don't know, I just sleep there. But now that we have it, I love it. Combined with Steph's very cool decorating, it's very "sexy and luxurious," as we like to say.

And in many ways, it makes sense that you'd feel better about things with such an arrangement. Your bedroom is the last thing you see when you go to bed and the first thing you see when you wake up. I never thought about it that way, but it does indeed make a difference. It wasn't cheap, but what the hell, we'll have it a very long time.

Then Wednesday night, Steph decided she wanted to try some drastic hair coloring. For years she has wanted to do some kind of extreme red coloring, but she has such seriously black hair that it's a bitch to get it to do much of anything not dark. In college she did some bleached streaks in the front (long before it was trendy), and it turned out more orange than anything, and that was after having the shit in her hair for two hours.

So then, because of some advice in the forums on SuicideGirls, she decided to try this one particular brand of bleach. We had not seen it before, but there it was at the drug store. She bought that and some bright red stuff and gave it a whirl.

She took just the hair from the top of her head, so the rest would remain dark underneath. The bleach worked big time. In fact, on her untreated hair, it was bright blonde, a feat I never thought I'd see. After that, she applied the red.

Truth is, she hated it. She hated it I think because the color had about three shades. The roots were super bright red while the ends, of course, didn't take as well. So we made a late night trip out to get something to cover it.

The cover, a darker red, still took better at the roots, but overall still produced a more consistant color, and it looks great. She wasn't sure at first, but I personally think it kicks ass. Hell, even the freaky bright was cool, just for the sake of being different, but the final result looks great, even if it wasn't the intention. She wears red much better than I expected.

I think that some of the girls on SG (like Celia, in particular) might have done their hair all dark black as a starting point to create that effect. I think I secretly wanted to be a hairdresser in another life.

As a bit of an aside, I forgot to mention that last Friday I got to tour the construction site of Cedar Point's new Dragster. It was pretty cool, but I think the emphasis for me was just hooking up with my friends more than seeing the ride. I guess in some ways my enthusiasm has relaxed a little as I strive to create balance in my life.